Tim Foolery

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Other Changes to United MileagePlus in 2016

I recent wrote about the upcoming changes to the way flyers can earn status on United and their MileagePlus Program– if you missed it, read more about that here. There is another major change that came about earlier in 2014 (effective March, 2015) that will impact every single United flyer, not just those looking for elite status.

Historically, flyers would earn award miles based on the number of miles they actually flew – plus bonus miles based on your elite status (as a Premier Gold Member, I would earn my actual miles flown, plus a 50% bonus) and additional bonus miles based on the fare bucket you purchased (full price economy tickets, BusinessFirst and Global First tickets would also get a bonus). I never paid full fare economy, or for BusinessFirst and I’ve never actually flown Global First. To me the price is just too rich, especially when I can redeem miles for longer haul front of the plane seats. I’d rather drop 80,000 miles each way for Global First to Europe than pay $5,400 for the same round trip (I just checked a random date in May 2015 from ORD to LHR to get the estimated pricing).

These miles are much easier to come by (for me) than the $5,400 for the airfare. I historically would earn about 75,000-125,000 miles a year just from traditional flying – including my elite bonus miles. Starting in March of 2015, United Flyers will earn miles based the dollar amount you spend on the actual ticket. General Members earn 5X miles for each dollar paid, Silver Members earn 7X miles, Gold Members 8X miles, Platinum Member 9X miles and Premier 1K earn 11X.

United MileagePlus Award Miles Earning Schedule for 2015 - Image Courtesy of United Airlines

United MileagePlus Award Miles Earning Schedule for 2015 – Image Courtesy of United Airlines

So in my previous post (being able to earn status on cheap flights) finding a $700 flight to PVG, earning 14,112 award –and elite—miles previously, would now earn between 3,500 miles (for General Members) and 7,700 miles for a Premier 1K. Yeah, it’s that big of a change. Some people will actually be better off – flyers who pay high airfare amounts on shorter route trips will definitely come out ahead. People like me, who don’t pay a ton of cash for each flight and don’t pay for premium cabin on flights, I’ll be definitely earning fewer miles after the first quarter 2015.

Delta already has this plan in place and United is following suit next year (United has been matching Delta move for move on the Frequent Flyer Program for a while now). Southwest and Jetblue both have had this type of arrangement for years. I think this is how all major frequently flyer programs will be handled in the future (that’s the way hotel programs work, right?) – I’ll wager the New American will follow suit with an announcement by June 2015. While these changes do dramatically alter the current playing field, I’m not going to lose sleep over it – as you can still earn a ton of miles with credit card sign-up bonuses, credit card spend, shopping portals, etc.

What about you? Do these changes cause you lots of angst? Are you more worried about the changes to the way award miles are earned or the way elite status is? What is the one piece of advice that you’d like to offer your fellow travelers?


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